In a recent essay in the Wall Street Journal, Judy Foreman, the author of “A Nation in Pain,” states, “Chronic pain, by the way, isn’t just acute pain that doesn’t go away after a few months; it’s a transformation of the nervous system that can literally shrink the brain.” Yikes! When I was in pain this comment would have made me feel completely out of control, discouraged and fearful.
While it is true that prolonged pain can change the nervous system, these changes don’t have to be permanent. When we activate different neural pathways that are calming and pain-free, the over-sensitive or prominent pain pathways may quiet down. It takes time, but eventually these novel ways of using the nervous system can become more of a habit, and there is evidence that with practice and experience, the structure of the nervous system can change.
So here is a new message: The nervous system can change, and this beautiful capability can help us heal.